My Irrational Love of Hurricanes

Despite the heavy wind and rain, it only took twenty-five minutes to get to Folly Beach from North Charleston. There were no stoplights, no traffic to slow us down. It was starting to get darker and after opening the car door, I couldn’t believe how loud the wind roared.

We were going to leave very early that morning, but Hurricane Floyd’s colossal traffic jam hadn’t budged. “I’m not worried,” Dad said. “With Hugo, two pressure systems had funneled the thing right into Charleston. They usually hit much farther north.” To be safe, we were going to ride it out inland, but after seeing the projected track in North Carolina, as Dad had predicted, we headed home.

That night, with a crank radio/flashlight combo, we listened to a local call-in show with people reporting conditions from around town. The storm was exciting. We watched transformers blow from across the river. The house shook back and forth in the category 1 wind—and sometimes quite hard with category 2 gusts. Exciting and wild but not scary. After all the post-and-beam house was built with hurricanes in mind. Later, in bed, I tried not to sleep, not wanting to miss a second of the storm. But next thing I knew I was awake and disappointed at the calm daylight. Still, it wasn’t all bad as Dad, Harrison, and I got to surf the swell all by ourselves.

Ever since our family’s evacuation of Hugo in ’89, I’ve had a fascination and love of hurricanes. To a fault. I After visiting the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, six years ago, I was unexpectedly hit with nostalgia looking at the unrepaired Katrina damage: the overgrown grass and damaged houses brought me right back to being three again. I rationally knew I should be flooded with sadness observing the spray paint on the homes, still marking the dead. I knew I should feel anger since political corruption has kept the neighborhood from rebuilding for years. But instead I warmly thought back to playing next to the damage on Forest Trail. You can’t help feelings, though.

So, not surprisingly, I was excited about Hurricane Matthew. It would be my first big storm in years—one that looked like it could compare to Floyd. 50 knot winds guaranteed. Hurricane force gusts probable. Strong but not terribly dangerous. My first taste of tropical storm winds since Irene in 2011. The first hurricane I’d get to document since Irene. Great blog material.

But it took a ten-mile detour east and by the time I woke up after our neighbors’ hurricane party, all I noticed was rain and the occasional weak tropical gust. And that familiar feeling of disappointment from an underwhelming storm. As Matthew spun closer to Folly this morning, I was envious of my parents riding it out where we had ridden out Floyd seventeen years before—knowing full well I was being irrational, knowing I’m lucky Matthew bumped east and not west, knowing how terribly people are suffering in Haiti. You can’t help feelings, though.

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Hurricane sunset, Irene 2011

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